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Erin Ziegler’s Endowment Empowers Berkeley Law CLEE to Shape the Future of Environmental Law and Policy

Posted in October 2023 by Judith Katz

One of the programs the Ziegler Fund has backed is CLEE’s GrizzlyCorps program, which focuses on both training and policy implementation. GrizzlyCorps, UC Berkeley’s first AmeriCorps Program, connects recent college grads with rural organizations that focus on wildfire resilience and regenerative agriculture. In a way, it’s a smaller-scale version of President Biden’s recently launched American ClimateCorps, which aims to employ over 20,000 people. 

“Erin’s gift from the Ziegler Fund was a big deal for us—it not only helped with our expenses but was also one of our first donations, which set the stage for more stable funding down the road,” said GrizzlyCorps’ founder Ken Alex. “When you get support like that early on, it’s not just about the money; it shows other potential donors that we’ve got something worth investing in.”   

The Ziegler Fund exemplifies the transformative power of individual philanthropy as a vehicle for academia’s real-world impact. The Fund will undoubtedly continue to support Berkeley Law’s ability to infuse the discipline of environmental law with thoughtful leadership both in terms of law school graduates and policymaking for years to come. As the world looks to California for innovative solutions to the climate crisis, the Ziegler Fund shows how philanthropy can be a key lever in the effort to build a more environmentally sustainable future. 

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Civilian Climate Corps can help stem rural-urban divide

Posted on, May 1, 2021, by Ken Alex

President Biden’s Infrastructure Plan includes a $10 billion proposal to create a Civilian Climate Corps, modeled on the Civilian Conservation Corps of the 1930s, designed to put young people to work reducing fire risk, restoring ecosystems and generally building community resilience around the country. The proposal has garnered extensive support, including a stand-alone bill introduced by Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).

The new corps could take many forms, including work crews for national forests and parks, planning assistance for cities and counties, electric vehicle charger installers, and the like. It could — and should — also help bridge some of the urban-rural divide that currently runs through much of the country and virtually every state and defines a good deal of our politics and climate debate. ­In California, at the University of California, Berkeley, we run an AmeriCorps program called GrizzlyCorps that could provide a transformative model.

GrizzlyCorps sends recent college graduates into rural communities across California to promote regenerative agri-food systems and fire and forest resilience. The response after one year has been overwhelmingly positive, allowing us to nearly double the size for the second year and begin work to add a new program focusing on food waste and food system resilience.

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A 'Climate Corps' of California Volunteers

Posted on, September 28, 2020 by James Fallows

Back in the early days of the pandemic, when some people imagined that changes in American life might be a matter of months rather than of years, I wrote about California Volunteers and its response to the crisis.

This is a publicly sponsored organization, serving the nation’s most populous state, designed to do what organizations from the Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps, to the Kennedy-era Peace Corps, to more contemporary organizations (with a variety of funding models)—from the Job Corps to Americorps to City Year to Report for America to Code for America—have aspired to do. Namely: matching people of all ages (but mainly younger people) who have an interest in service with the most pressing needs for service in the America of these times.

This past week, California Volunteers announced an expansion of its program: a new California Climate Action Corps, designed to address both the causes and the effects (drought, wildfire, mudslides, intense heat) of California’s exposure to climate change. The state’s governor, Gavin Newsom, announced the creation of the Climate Action Corps a day after his executive order that all cars sold in the state (the largest single auto market in the U.S.) meet a zero-emissions standard by 2035.


In practice, this new program will mean that some 250 “climate action fellows” will work on sustainability projects across the state. The benefit for the fellows is that they receive a stipend and experience during their period of service, and afterwards receive a grant to help cover college costs. “We’re going to work city-by-city toward meeting their community goals,” Josh Fryday, the head of California Volunteers, told me last week. “In Los Angeles, it could be helping them meet their tree-planting goals.” In other communities, it could be efforts to support sustainable forestry or agriculture (for instance, with the Grizzly Corps), or to help food banks, or other goals determined locally.

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Partner Profile: GrizzlyCorps, a New Program for Climate Resilience 

Posted on Tuesday, November 10, 2020 By Becca Lucas

In early September, the worsening impacts of the climate crisis were felt acutely all over California as one of the state’s most destructive wildfire seasons caused hazy skies and dangerous air quality. Under uniquely orange and smoky skies in the Bay Area, a new AmeriCorps program focused specifically on climate resilience officially launched.

Focused in rural areas, this program,  GrizzlyCorps, supports community capacity to respond to climate change through regenerative agriculture and forest and fire resilience projects.

The idea was conceived by Ken Alex, director of Project Climate at the Berkeley Law Center for Energy and Environment, as a way to address the climate crisis in rural areas. Prior to Project Climate, he was the Senior Policy Advisor to former Governor Jerry Brown and chair of the Strategic Growth Council. CalCAN recognized Ken Alex’s leadership in the Brown administration on natural and working lands issues at our biennial Climate and Agriculture Summit in 2019. In particular, we are appreciative of the role he played in the establishment of the Sustainable Agricultural Lands Conservation Program.


Roaring Into Action: Berkeley Law Center Launches New GrizzlyCorps Climate and Resiliency Program

Posted on Friday, October 9, 2020 by Andrew Cohen

Berkeley Law’s top-ranked environmental law program is blazing yet another new trail with the launch of GrizzlyCorps

Developed by Project Climate within the school’s Center for Law, Energy & the Environment (CLEE), GrizzlyCorps is a nascent AmeriCorps effort that sends recent college graduates to work in farm and forest communities across California. Each year, the initiative will select 20 fellows to engage in 11-month placements that help build community resilience and respond to climate change.

During their service stint, fellows will tackle projects that promote regenerative agriculture, forest and fire protections, and carbon sequestration while building long-term resilience. The inaugural cohort began their placements in early September. 


“CLEE focuses extensively on the climate crisis, finding both innovative solutions and ways to overcome persistent barriers,” says Jordan Diamond ’08, the center’s executive director. “GrizzlyCorps is a concentrated expression of that mission, focusing on providing vital support to farm and forest communities that often bear the brunt of climate harm and have meaningful opportunities to realize climate progress.”

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